Can Supplements Help Shrink Your Prostate? Here's What We Know

As you walk through a supplement aisle, you'll find carefully worded health claims on the label. Many of them will use words like "supports" to avoid being slapped by the Food and Drug Administration for a misleading health claim. You'll find herbs that claim to improve your libido or adaptogens that boost your brain health, but they often are accompanied by fine print that says the supplement isn't intended to "diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." Some proprietary blends of vitamins, herbs, and other substances might claim to be natural ways to boost your prostate health.

As a man ages, his prostate tends to grow larger. In fact, MedlinePlus says about 90% of men who reach 80 years old will develop an enlarged prostate. Although an enlarged prostate is benign (it's called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), it can make it difficult to urinate because the gland begins to press against the urethra. BPH might also make urination painful or cause incontinence.

Alpha-1 blockers can ease the discomfort of painful urination by relaxing the surrounding muscles of your bladder and prostate. Medications like finasteride and dutasteride can help shrink the prostate, but they could cause impotence because they affect your hormones. It's not surprising that men might turn to supplements to manage symptoms or shrink their prostate. While herbs like saw palmetto have shown promise to reduce symptoms of an enlarged prostate, no supplements have been found to definitively shrink an enlarged prostate.

Saw palmetto and prostate health

Saw palmetto has been used to treat various conditions associated with the urinary tract and the prostate. A 2015 article in the Pharmacy and Pharmacology International Journal said that the many clinical trials on the efficacy of saw palmetto have been mixed, and researchers aren't sure why saw palmetto might work in those diagnosed with an enlarged prostate. The medium-chain fatty acids found in saw palmetto could possibly reduce inflammation of the prostate.

According to a 2019 article in Food Science and Biotechnology, the problem with supplements and why there have been inconsistent results is that there isn't a way to standardize the saw palmetto supplements. There are specific fatty acids in saw palmetto extract that could prevent BPH, and other substances can reduce inflammation in the prostate. Yet it's difficult for researchers to study the effects of saw palmetto extract because of the different formulations available.

A plant sterol called beta-sitosterol might be a key substance in saw palmetto that could treat an enlarged prostate. Conventional saw palmetto oil can have a range of 0.2% to 0.3% beta-sitosterol in it. A 2020 study in BMC Urology had men aged 40 to 65 who had symptoms of BPH take either saw palmetto oil enriched with 3% beta-sitosterol, conventional saw palmetto oil, or a placebo for 12 weeks. Compared to the placebo, those taking the enriched saw palmetto oil had reduced their symptoms of BPH.

Other supplements for prostate health

You could look into other alternative remedies to improve the health of your prostate. A 2022 systematic review in Phytomedicine Plus looked at 28 studies that investigated various herbs to improve symptoms of BPH or lower urinary tract syndrome (LUTS). Although saw palmetto was included in more than half of the studies, the researchers also found studies using stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), pumpkin seed oil (Cucurbita pepo), lycopene (an antioxidant found in tomatoes), African cherry (Pygeum africanum), and flax (Linum usitatissimum) as isolated possibilities or in combination with other substances to ease symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

Stinging nettle was found to improve a few symptoms, while pumpkin seed oil could improve symptoms such as urinary flow rate and quality of life. Tomatoes might be healthy for men because lycopene can ease some BPH symptoms, including urinary flow rate. African cherry alone or combined with other herbs might also help with BPH symptoms. Lastly, flax might not reduce an enlarged prostate, but it might work well with other herbs to alleviate symptoms of BPH.